The Red Sox have relieved president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski of his duties, the team announced following Sunday night’s loss to the Yankees. While the potential of a move had been rumored for weeks, it’s still a stunning decision to see actually come to fruition, considering that the team won the World Series less than a year ago after a dominant 2018 campaign that saw them win a franchise-record 108 games.
Dombrowski is being replaced as head of baseball operations on an interim basis by assistant general managers (odd titles since the team had no general manager to begin with) Eddie Romero, Brian O’Halloran, and Zak Scott (as The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey relayed on Twitter.)
The 63-year-old Dombrowski, who has over 40 years of major-league front-office experience with the White Sox, Expos, Marlins, Tigers, and Red Sox, took over as Boston’s president of baseball operations in August of 2015. He oversaw the acquisitions of Chris Sale, Craig Kimbrel, and Nathan Eovaldi (as well as surprising World Series heroes Steve Pearce and Eduardo Nuñez) via trade, the free-agent additions of David Price and J.D. Martinez, the signings of Sale and Xander Bogaerts to long-term extensions, and the re-signing of Eovaldi to a new four-year deal.
Dombrowski had faults, too, though it feels as if those faults have often been talked about as much greater mistakes than they actually were by fans and media in Boston. He dealt infielder Travis Shaw — who had two fantastic, 30-plus homer, .800-plus OPS campaigns with the Brewers in 2017-18 before totally falling off the map this year — to Milwaukee for reliever Tyler Thornburg, who dealt with extensive injuries and posted a disastrous 6.54 ERA over 41 appearances with the Red Sox before being released in July. He traded infielder Yoan Moncada, who has broken out to the tune of an .878 OPS with 22 homers this season after struggling in his first two full big-league campaigns, as part of the deal that brought Sale to Boston prior to the 2017 season. There’s been some resentment about that deal this year, but it’s (a) tough to know where Moncada would play on this Red Sox team — Rafael Devers is 22 years old and already arguably the best third baseman in baseball, and Moncada looked out of place as a second baseman in 2017-18 — and (b) difficult to imagine the Red Sox winning last year’s World Series without Sale’s dominant performance.
Actually, his greatest mistakes may have been over the last offseason, when he re-signed a pair of aging pitchers — Sale and Eovaldi — to long-term contracts. The 30-year-old Sale, who signed a five-year, $145 million contract loaded with incentives that kicks in next year, has posted a career-high 4.40 ERA and is out for the remainder of the season with elbow inflammation. The 29-year-old Eovaldi signed a new four-year, $68 million contract prior to this season and has struggled with injuries, also posting a career-high ERA (5.77) while appearing in just 19 games, 11 of which have come out of the bullpen.
Obviously, there’s also somewhat of a bias against Dombrowski in some circles (and perhaps by his counterparts in other front offices) because he’s not a product of an elite east-coast university and isn’t generally thought of as an “analytics guy,” having graduated with a business administration degree from Western Michigan University. With that said, Dombrowski seemed to do fine work in an organization that has a very rich history with advanced data, having hired analytics pioneer Bill James as a senior advisor back in 2003. With the extremely selective talent pool from which MLB teams have hired presidents of baseball operations and general managers in recent years, it would be a surprise if Dombrowski’s successor didn’t more closely fit that younger, data-driven profile — and more closely resemble his two predecessors, Theo Esptein and Ben Cherington.
This move continues a trend of owner John Henry and company being absolutely ruthless with those who are tasked with making the organization’s baseball decisions. Cherington, Dombrowski’s immediate predecessor, was fired less than two years after assembling a club that won the 2013 World Series. Meanwhile, manager Grady Little was fired after going 188-136 over two seasons and taking the team to the 2003 ALCS; Terry Francona was let go after managing the Red Sox to eight straight winning seasons and two World Series victories, including one that snapped an 86-year drought; Bobby Valentine was fired after one rough season in 2012, and John Farrell was dismissed after winning a World Series in 2013 and leading the team to two straight 93-win seasons and AL East titles in 2016-17.